Slow starts for some expected on the Opening Day roster

Yesterday morning I highlighted ten players that are off to a terrific start in Grapefruit League games. Although the Orioles have only played 15 games, there is certainly plenty to talk about. The outfield competition isn’t disappointing and as mentioned yesterday, Anthony Santander is having a fantastic spring. Entering yesterday’s 4-2 victory over the Red Sox in the sixth inning as a defensive replacement, he doubled in a run in the seventh inning, running his Grapefruit League average to .476 (10-for-21).

Then, there’s Yusniel Diaz, who is the top prospect in the organization according to MLB Pipeline. He made his way into his 12th game yesterday in Sarasota and even though he didn’t pick up a hit in one at-bat, he’s still leading the team this spring with 11. Diaz is currently in a six-way tie for the most hits among MLB players in Spring Training and his .393 (11-for-28) batting average is tied for third among qualifiers.

But although there is separation in camp, beginning to pull away and distance themselves as standouts, there are a few players expected to be on the 25-man roster that are having their struggles. Yefry Ramirez, for example, was once placed in the category of potential back-end rotation starters however, after four starts and six earned runs, him breaking camp in the rotation is becoming more-and-more unlikely.

Ramirez has made appearances against the Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates. He allowed one earned run on Opening Day to the Twins, one on March 2 to the Red Sox and four on Thursday to the Pirates. The only outing that didn’t yield a run was on February 26 against the Rays. His highlight was on Thursday though, striking out six different Pirates batters in three innings.

Cedric Mullins was expected to be the Opening Day center fielder, replacing the longtime face of the franchise, Adam Jones. However, after a 4-for-24 (.167) start to the spring, manager Brandon Hyde is not ready to name Mullins the center fielder when the team heads north to New York. There’s still plenty of time for the 24-year-old to put it together enough to make the Opening Day roster, though. I’d expect to see Mullins more as the spring games continue.

Jonathan Villar has been in conversations regarding whether he plays shortstop or second base, until the Orioles walked away from the Rule-5 draft in December with two shortstops. Now that we know he’ll be the Opening Day second baseman, time will tell if he will replicate the .336 on-base percentage he posted in 54 games with the team last year. So far this spring, he’s played in seven games, with 20 plate appearances. Officially, he’s just 2-for-18 with two walks and six strikeouts.

And then, there’s Chris Davis. Currently being rested due to a hip flexor, Davis had an MRI on his left hip yesterday morning. He hasn’t played since Sunday, March 3 and is currently labeled as day-to-day. His improved workout regime has been documented for weeks, as he began preparations for the upcoming season in mid-December.

“I’ve been hitting for, I guess, a little over a month now. I’ve done a few different things,” Davis told MASN’s Roch Kubatko in mid-January. “I really took a good chunk of time once the season ended and sought some people out as far as hitting mechanics and philosophy go. And I feel like the things I’ve been working on, hopefully, will translate to a little bit more consistency at the plate.”

After just five games this spring, Davis has gone a mere 1-for-12 (.083) with seven strikeouts and a home run. He’s going to be on the 25-man roster, depending on what the MRI on his hip reveals. However, patience is thin among the fan base for the former slugger.

“I think the biggest thing for me was really taking a step back and saying, ‘OK, what do I need to do as a player, as a professional, to put myself in the best position for success and also to put my team in the best position for success?’ And a lot of that was kind of going back to the drawing board as far as my nutrition and overall workouts and training was concerned.”

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Brian Pinter

Brian Pinter is the Director of Coverage on the Baltimore Orioles for Maryland Sports Blog. His views and opinions are that of his own and he welcomes any and all discussions. Follow along with Brian Pinter this season on Twitter, @b_pinter23.

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